There are some terrific essays in this book by our friend Danny Frederick. Really glad I bought it and I recommend it warmly.
This passage in particular, from his essay "Truth cannot sensibly be our epistemic aim", really impressed me and I have yet to digest it, because it pushed many of my intuitions around.
"It might be objected that the property of feeling ill is logically independent of the property of being ill, since one may feel ill whether or not one is ill, and one may be ill whether or not one feels ill, yet we do use feeling ill as a fallible indicator of being ill. So the fact that the properties that we use to rate a theory as better or worse are logically independent of the theory's truth does not seem to exclude using those properties as fallible indicators of truth or closeness to truth.
There is, however, a crucial contrast between the two cases. We have discovered empirically the (somewhat loose) connection between feeling and being ill: we have various theories that have survived testing that explain how illnesses of various types give rise to feelings of illness of various types. So in any new case we may sensibly use feeling ill as a fallible indicator for being ill. In contrast, the theory that there is a factual connection between truth and the combination of properties we take to make a good explanation (consistency with observation statements, explanatory scope, prediction of novel facts and such-like) is refuted every time that the currently best theory is superseded by a better one. A superseding theory typically contradicts the theory it supersedes, as Copernicus's theory contradicts Ptolemy's, and Kepler's contradicts both Ptolemy's and Copernicus's, and Newton's contradicts Ptolemy's, Copernicus's and Kepler's, and relativity theory contradicts all of the former. Since at most one of a set of mutually inconsistent propositions can be true, many (perhaps all) of the theories that have had the status of being currently best are false (though we cannot know which ones are false). So, the combination of properties that we take to make a good explanation does not have a factual connection with truth."
'the combination of properties that we take to make a good explanation does not have a factual connection with truth'Okay, I'll say 'belief', where the term encompasses 'theory', 'view', 'thesis', and so on. And then, if I want to emphasize that there remains a possible doubt as to the truth of the belief, then I think it's a fairly straightforward point. Maybe it's less straightforward if I proceed from 'thinking is not knowing', to some seemingly paradoxical assertion that 'knowing is not really actually truly knowing with infallible certainty', such that science’s best-entrenched claims, and people’s best-loved commonsense views, or such, none of those claims or views are ever well justified or knowledge. I worry about playing around with putting it that way, it's just not straightforward -- this isn't a technical matter, we are just confusing ourselves maybe, about a mere point of emphasis. The point of emphasis, is that skeptics about the existence of knowledge or justified belief might be rather extreme, but there is a point here to be made, that we can pause, to think about knowledge and justification in a comparatively realistic way, and that means, remembering that we like to pretend that we know more than we do, and we talk about 'truth' and 'truths', as opposed to talking about 'opinions', and 'beliefs', like as if we really do know anything and are not just mansplaining. "Knowing" often serves as a crutch for "thinking," and thinking is not easy. It requires effort.“When is the trash collected?” leads to knowing always on Tuesday. Even great thinkers clear their mental decks in this way, I guess. So they can give their full attention to thinking about what they don’t know.Of course, some knowledge is imprecise. Being ready, able, and willing to think when necessary protects us from mistaken knowledge. Substituting beliefs (and prejudices) for knowledge is a widely used strategy for avoiding thought, for example, cutting taxes will always increase employment, evolution is a lie.If we choose to think, it can protect us from confusing beliefs for facts. Sometimes, we speak about the importance of having an open mind, an ambiguous phrase of uncertain meaning. What we really mean is having the willingness and ability to think.For many persons, it is doubtless the case that the more they know, the less they think. The greater truth, however, is the more they believe they know, the less they will think.224.0527.0079.301-.2.635-.2.218 0 .363.041.534.123.581.277.732.978.732 1.542 0 .271-.414 1.083-.47 1.364 0 0 .867-.192 1.879-.199 1.061-.006 1.749.19 1.749.842 0 .261-.219.523-.316.666zM3.6 7h.8a.6.6 0 01.6.6v3.8a.6.6 0 01-.6.6h-.8a.6.6 0 01-.6-.6V7.6a.6.6 0 01.6-.6z'/%3e%3c/g%3e%3c/svg%3e" alt="" width="16" height="16" />1
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